CA Orders Gas Well Inspections

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 @ 02:02 PM gHale

Alarmed by a nonstop leak of a gas well in Southern California, state officials issued emergency regulations and orders for inspections of all gas wells.

“These regulations are in effect immediately and require all gas storage companies to complete enhanced inspections and testing at every gas well in California,” said Ken Harris, state oil and gas supervisor with the California Department of Conservation.

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The inspections will include wells in three gas storage centers owned and operated by PG&E, all in Northern California.

PG&E’s gas storage complexes are the Los Medanos facility in the Bay Point community of Contra Costa County, the Pleasant Creek complex near Winters in Yolo County and the McDonald Island gas storage facility west of Stockton in San Joaquin County. PG&E also is a 25 percent owner of the Gill Ranch gas storage center in Madera County.

A state of emergency due to a natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon gas storage complex prompted state conservation officials to issue the new rules and inspection requirements.

The utility firm, Southern California Gas, owns and operates the well complex, located in the San Fernando Valley community of Porter Ranch near Los Angeles.

Concerns over the safety of California’s vast web of aging natural gas systems have intensified in the five years since the fatal explosion of a PG&E gas pipe in San Bruno.

“We intend to make these emergency regulations a permanent requirement in California and are committed to strong oversight measures that help ensure the health and safety and environmental protection of this state,” Harris said.

The state agency is requiring gas well and storage system operators to comply with six new safety and reliability measures.

The new rules include daily inspections of gas storage well heads, ongoing verification of the mechanical integrity of gas storage wells, ongoing measurement of gas pressure or gas flow within the wells, regular testing of safety valves used in wells, establishment of minimum and maximum pressure limits for each gas storage facility in California, establishment of comprehensive risk assessment plans for each gas storage complex.

San Francisco-based PG&E said it has instituted five of the six requirements that comprise the new rules.

“PG&E will continue to work closely with the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, the state Public Utilities Commission and other stakeholders on these new directives,” said Donald Cutler, a PG&E spokesman.

San Francisco-based PG&E, however, has not complied with one of the new emergency regulations: The utility giant has yet to establish ongoing measurement of gas pressure or gas flow within its storage wells, according to Cutler. PG&E expects to implement the state directive related to measurement of gas flow within 30 days, Cutler said.

Large quantities of methane continue to escape from a well in the Aliso Canyon gas storage complex.

State officials required new emergency rules for inspections and operations of natural gas storage complexes and wells:
• Require at least a daily inspection of gas storage well heads, using gas leak detection technology such as infrared imaging.
• Require ongoing verification of the mechanical integrity of all gas storage wells.
• Require ongoing measurement of annular gas pressure or annular gas flow within wells.
• Require regular testing of all safety valves used in wells.
• Establish minimum and maximum pressure limits for each gas storage facility in the state.
• Require each storage facility to establish a comprehensive risk management plan that evaluates and prepares for risks at each facility, including corrosion potential of pipes and equipment.